When the original Cowbridge prison, erected after the Houses of Parliament granted permission in 1576, was in need of repair a new House of Correction was built on the same site by the East Gate in 1806. This prison was only in use until 1829 when new facilities were built in Swansea. By this time the medieval Guild Hall situated in the centre of the High Street was restricting transport through this busy market town so it was decided to demolish it and the Burgesses purchased, by public subscription, the House of Correction to use as the Town Hall in 1830.
Today it is the administrative offices of the Town Council, the two main halls are used by the community and the original cells of the House of Correction contain the Cowbridge Museum which is open to the public.
This historic building still retains many interesting features. The Mayor’s Parlour contains the well which was used to supply male prisoners with water. The Council Chamber has a facsimile of the 1421 Charter, an oil painting of the Cowbridge Seal used from 1762 to 1887, a copy of the Grant of Arms of 1888 and boards listing past Mayors, Town Clerks and Honorary Freemen.
Queen Victoria granted the last Royal Charter in 1886 which allowed the people of Cowbridge to elect their own Councillors and Mayor. Many old boroughs lost this right due to government reorganisation in 1974 but Cowbridge was granted permission to retain this office but lost its right to grant the Honorary Freedom of Cowbridge.
The Mayor’s chain and pendant were presented by the first elected Mayor, Alderman Thomas Rees, in 1887. The Mayoress has a lighter more delicate chain and pendant. Since the amalgamation of Cowbridge Town Council with Llanblethian Community Council in 1982 the Deputy Mayor wears the chain and pendant of the Chairman of Llanblethian Council and the Deputy Mayoress wears the Deputy Mayor’s pendant on a simple ribbon.
The silver maces are inscribed Cowbridge Villa 1606 and bear the Royal Coat of Arms. They are carried by two Mace-Bearers who accompany the Mayor on all ceremonial occasions.